Tag Archives: teambuilding

Does Teambuilding Work? Part 2

In last week’s post, I outlined the approaches to teambuilding that don’t work. This week I will discuss those that do.

One note: I’m talking here about teambuilding for an already established team. Some of the available kumbaya or fun activities I’ve criticized may work better if the team is just forming. Though maybe not….

So what does work?

  • An assessment must precede the teambuilding. You can’t fix a team if you don’t know what’s needed or broken. Needs and problems are often multi-layered: they can involve personalities, management, organizational systems, training, the nature of the work, and so on. The assessment can be done by someone in-house, though it may be more effective to bring in someone from outside who can view things with a more objective eye. Assessment tools include interviews, surveys, 360-degree instruments, testing, etc. Often, interviews are enough.
  • It’s important to determine which issues are amenable to a teambuilding approach. Some will require personal attention, e.g., behavior and performance problems. These cannot be solved via a group effort.
  • The program needs to focus on the issues found in the assessment. Sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying. If the teambuilding doesn’t seek to address what’s really going on, it will be a waste of time and money. It may even make things worse.
  • Sufficient time, energy, and resources must be devoted to the teambuilding. This means there probably will need to be more than one meeting. It means that management must be visibly committed to the process.  It means that the facilitator must be skilled and have a good understanding of the issues set out in the assessment. (I’ll talk about what makes a good facilitator in another post.) It often works well to have the same person do the assessment and the teambuilding since that person will have a deeper understanding of the players and the issues.
  • The teambuilding should lead to agreement on future do’s and don’ts. It’s not enough for everyone to just speak frankly and get along during the sessions. It’s important that a concrete action plan of some sort be agreed upon.  Ideally the action plan will include some sort of “enforcement” mechanisms, i.e., tools that employees can use to keep their teammates (and management) on the right path.
  • Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. One session or even a series of sessions won’t work if there is no follow up. Such follow up may include check-ins by management, subsequent meetings, or a follow up assessment. Management needs to ensure that employees adhere to whatever “agreements” were made and mechanisms created at the teambuilding sessions.

Any other ideas on effective teambuilding? ~Amy Stephson

Does Teambuilding Work?

Many employers – be it to address conflict or low morale or just to improve sales – provide teambuilding to their employees.  A recent LinkedIn forum explored the effectiveness of such efforts.  It confirmed what I myself have observed: done properly, team building can work well, done cursorily or poorly, it can be worse than doing nothing. 

This week I want to discuss what kinds of teambuilding don’t work. Next week I’ll address what elements are needed for teambuilding to be successful.

So what doesn’t work?

  •  Off the shelf, one size fits all programs. Everyone hates to be manipulated and patronized. Any program that doesn’t address the actual people and problems in issue has to be both because it won’t respect the complexity and individuality of the employees and their issues.
  • Games, fun activities, sing-alongs, outdoor challenge programs.  They may be fun, but they won’t solve real problems. And for many participants, they won’t even be fun. 
  • Working with an overly large group. You just can’t be effective if there are more than 10 or so employees in the group.  Too many variables, too many voices.
  • Teambuilding as a substitute for addressing performance or behavior issues.  A day of Kumbaya won’t help if the manager is incompetent, a couple of bullies run the shop, employees are screaming at each other because they can’t keep up with the workload, etc. 
  • A quick fix.  A few hours or even a full day of anything, even quality teambuilding, will not be enough to address serious or longstanding issues (and aren’t they all?). 
  • An unskilled leader.  It’s not easy to facilitate effectively.  One difficult, self-centered, angry or volatile employee can sabotage the whole enterprise and only a skilled leader can handle this type of participant.  Which also brings us back to a couple of bullets ago: teambuilding cannot substitute for addressing behavior issues.
  • Management outsources the process with little involvement.  We all know that it starts at the top. If management is not invested in the process, the employees will not be either.

What else do you think dooms teambuilding to failure?  ~Amy Stephson